One of the joys of writing during a New Orleans marathon are those moments when one is totally immersed in a place and the writing just takes over. Richard Louth calls them “New Orleans Minutes,” and they are simply magical. I have experienced a number of them and will be posting them here as I go through all my journals. I hope to have new ones from the Marathon later this month as well.
New Orleans Minute
The newest minute.
The City Beneath Us
New Orleans French market
Monday, July 14, 2014, Bastille Day
What is the Muse telling me as I watch people wander this old market, gazing at cell phones, oblivious to the ghosts who reside here? That New Orleans will survive this age and move gracefully into another. Lincoln and Hughes passed through. Twain and Grace King, Kate Chopin and Tennessee Williams, Hank Bukowski and Faulkner all walked these streets, living, drinking, eating, loving, dying.
What else is there? A choice? Not really. We’re on the train and there’s no getting off until the end of the line. How do writers convey this without sounding impossibly morbid?
That’s why there is faith I guess, but faith doesn’t change the journey. The journey is and there’s no avoiding the inevitable.
Celebrating death as we celebrate life is one of the things I have always loved about New Orleans. Because of that and the eternal Mississippi, there is a weird kind of resilience here. The city assimilates new comers who however they try to make her more like Seattle or Minneapolis or even Orlando, cannot quite do it.
That is because the undercurrent that thrives beneath the river and swamp, below the radar of most tourists and many new residents, is strong and steady. Grace King’s “Little Convent Girl” was told by the riverboat captain of cities sunken beneath the river and I have seen them. Layers of life and death that exist simultaneously.
The veil is thin. It’s disturbing to some and exciting to others—drives some to madness, some to divinity and many to drink. But it can’t be changed or legislated. It can only be borne, embraced or fled from.
Tawdriness and elegance go hand in hand here. All the binaries, all the extremes exist, co-exist. There’s no permanent escape. The train or riverboat is moving and there’s no getting off until the end—or the next stop.